Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Carl Ashley asks the board to adopt the recommendations of the Diversity Task Force, which created a blueprint for increased diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
The five Nonresident Lawyer Division representatives to the board. From left: Paul Conrad (Washington D.C.); James Casey Jr. (Pittsburgh, Penn.); Debra Kuper (Boston, Mass.); Charles Stahmer (Bozeman, Mont.); and Daniel Rinzel (Mount Vernon, Virg.).
Sept. 22, 2014 – At its first meeting of the fiscal year in Green Lake, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors bolstered efforts to foster more diversity and inclusion in the legal profession by unanimously adopting the recommendations of the Diversity Task Force.
The task force – created in 2012 by former State Bar President Patrick J. Fiedler to determine the State Bar’s role in promoting and furthering diversity within the law schools, the profession, and the State Bar – made recommendations in June.
This past Saturday at its board meeting in Green Lake, the board unanimously adopted the Diversity Task Force Report and Recommendations, which serves as a blueprint for the State Bar’s efforts to highlight and address the needs of its diverse membership.
“The State Bar has been active in the area diversity and inclusion for years,” said Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Carl Ashley, chair of the Diversity Task Force.
“But those efforts needed more structure and consistency. One of the big issues was that people didn’t realize the bar was willing and able to support these initiatives.”
Diversity Must be Weaved Into the Fabric of the State Bar
Judge Ashley, who spoke last Friday to urge support for the diversity plan, said the board’s vote signals its leadership role in helping those who feel disenfranchised.
“We want to institutionalize the issues of diversity and inclusion,” Judge Ashley said in an interview. “Diversity and inclusion needs to be weaved into the fabric of the State Bar and its activities. We hope the task force’s recommendations will allow that to happen.”
Vue Yang is a building bridges representative to the board and member of Asian Bar Association.
The report defines diversity as “an inclusive concept that encompasses, among other things, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation and disability.”
The report also notes that “inclusion” helps create “a culture that embraces people from the widest range of talent and experience and promotes understanding and respect for all people and different points of view in the legal profession.”
Judge Ashley says “inclusion” is an important piece of diversity. “You can be diverse, but are you including people? People can feel marginalized in their own office.”
In developing the recommendations, the task force conducted research, reviewed the diversity efforts of other bar associations, and held listening sessions with lawyers and a variety of stakeholder groups. Judge Ashley said one thing became clear.
“We know that people routinely do and say things that demean and marginalize others,” said Judge Ashley, who heard “startling” stories when meeting with the Association for Women Lawyers. “We need to raise the level of awareness to end these behaviors.”
In addition to incorporating the diversity and inclusion concept into its mission statement, the State Bar will review recommendations for implementation. So of the report’s recommendations include:
Appoint a standing Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee. The committee should assist, coordinate, and facilitate the incorporation of diversity efforts, and ensure that implementation is carried out.
Create a Law Student Outreach Subcommittee. The subcommittee should play a leadership role in forming and marketing collaboration among law schools, the State Bar, and employers to encourage and support diversity and inclusion. This subcommittee would revitalize the Diversity Clerkship Program and consider new initiatives such as mentoring, pipeline, and job-shadowing programs.
Establish, update, and publish reliable data. This will include yearly census data on the diversity of the State Bar membership. A baseline of information will enable an objective evaluation of the diversity programs and initiatives that are needed.
Be a model of diversity and inclusion. The State Bar should work to serve as a model of diversity in the legal profession and inclusion as it pertains to its own organizational structure and staff.
Take a leadership role in promoting and furthering diversity and inclusion in all facets of the Wisconsin legal profession. The State Bar should advance the cause of diversity and inclusion and set a future course to demonstrate a commitment that truly embraces diversity and inclusion.
“Adopting these initiatives not only signals a willingness to hear the concerns of those who feel disenfranchised,” said Judge Ashley. “It also signals State Bar’s commitment, through staff and resources, to take action. This is a big step in the right direction.”
Board Supports Petition on the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act
The board unanimously supported a petition to adopt the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act (UIDDA) in Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Judicial Council’s petition, which was submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2013, the UIDDA “allows out-of-state litigants to obtain third-party discovery in the enacting state.”
The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted and approved the uniform law in 2007, and recommended that all states enact it.
Chairperson of the Board Paul Swanson, Oshkosh, lays out the board's agenda.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has rule-making authority in the areas of pleading, practice, and procedure, will consider the petition. The petition asks the supreme court to repeal Wis. Stat. section 887.24 and replace it with the UIDDA.
If the supreme court adopts the uniform law, an attorney from another state could obtain relevant discoverable information from a nonparty Wisconsin resident for use in a civil case filed in that state, according to the Judicial Council’s memo supporting the petition.
“The proposed amendment is intended to set forth a procedure that can be easily and efficiently followed with a minimum of judicial oversight and intervention, and that is both cost-effective for the litigants and fair to deponents,” the memorandum states.
According to the UIDDA’s prefatory note, the law brings uniformity in the area of foreign depositions, where it’s often unclear whether the procedures of the trial state or discovery state control. For instance, it may be unclear whether the rules of a trial state or the discovery state control on this issue of attorney-client privilege.
The Judicial Council filed the petition in November 2013, and it is now scheduled for a public hearing on Sept. 29, 2014. The petition moves forward with State Bar support.
Board Adopts Publications Plan for “Official Notices”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently adopted a rule amendment, effective July 1, 2014, that allows the State Bar to publish “official notices” on the State Bar website and in other electronic formats to take advantage of more timely and cost-effective options.
“Official notices” include notice of Wisconsin Supreme Court orders adopting, amending, or repealing rules, statutes, or policies related to supreme court rules and State Bar of Wisconsin rules and bylaws.
Previously, members received all official notices in the State Bar’s monthly Wisconsin Lawyer magazine. At its meeting in Green Lake, the board adopted a “publications plan” for publishing official notices in electronic and print formats, depending on the notice.
Wisconsin Lawyer will still provide notice in summary format once per month, but notices will also appear in WisBar InsideTrack, a bimonthly online publication sent to members via email.
The State Bar website, WisBar.org, also houses an “official notices” webpage with an updated archive of official notices from the supreme court and the State Bar.
Board Hears Reports on New Lawyers and State Bar/Section Relationship
The board discussed the Report of the Committee on Challenges Facing New Lawyers, which released a final report in June 2014 at the last board meeting of the fiscal year. The board is expected to vote on whether to adopt the report’s recommendations at its next meeting in December.
David Jones, co-chair of the committee, said the report contains numerous recommendations that the board can adopt to help new lawyers, such as collaboration with law schools to problem solve on issues of law school debt and unemployment.
From left, Past-president Patrick J. Fiedler, President Robert Gagan, the Hon. Mark Slate, and President-elect Ralph Cagle. Slate, circuit court judge for Green County, welcomed the board to his jurisdiction. For more photos from the board meeting, visit the State Bar of Wisconsin Facebook page.
“What the State Bar should do is start getting into the law schools and educating the students about the benefits of membership as a tool for their entire career,” he said. “This will help diminish their sense of isolation and increase their opportunities.”
Natalie Fleury, a law professor at Marquette University Law School and chair of the Task Force on Strengthening the State Bar/Sections Relationship, also updated the board on the work of that body.
The task force, convened in 2013 by Section Leaders Council chair Margaret Hickey, was created to make recommendations on specific, practical, and tangible ways to strengthen the relationship between the State Bar and its 24 sections.
For instance, a report recommends ways to strengthen communications between the Board of Governors and the State Bar sections and to foster more collaboration between sections and State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® on continuing legal education options.
Other Board Actions
The board approved State Bar President Robert Gagan’s appointments to the Nomination Committee for the April 2015 election to State Bar leadership: Michael Guerin, chair; Hon. Richard Sankovitz; Daniel D. Blinka; Christy Brown; and Byron Conway.
The State Bar’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Conference will be held June 14-16 at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells and the 2018 Annual Meeting and Conference will be held June 20-22 at the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa.
Upon request, interested members may obtain a copy of the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Governors. For more information, contact State Bar Executive Coordinator Jan Marks by email or by phone at (608) 250-6106.